Talking poetry : language, values, and learning

Reiman, Donald G. (2003). Talking poetry : language, values, and learning PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Reiman, Donald G.
Thesis Title Talking poetry : language, values, and learning
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Carolyn Baker
Christa van Kraayenoord
Total pages 456
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects L
330201 Curriculum Studies - English Education
740201 Secondary education
Formatted abstract
This thesis records the research accompanying my desire to make post-compulsory secondary school poetry lessons more productive for students.

Poetry is a mandatory component of post-compulsory secondary education in Queensland and other Australian states. However, it is acknowledged that poetry is the most difficult genre of literature to be taught. As an educational genre not related to the everyday world, it is tolerated rather than liked, by students.

Most beliefs about poetry texts are the direct result of how poetry is taught. The dominant philosophy pervading most poetry teaching is the Cultural Heritage approach that purports that poetry texts are artefacts requiring an expert to reveal their one correct meaning. To this premise is added the need to expose students to texts considered worthy of our literary heritage: the canon of English poetry. Syllabus documents and examination papers in many Australian states continue to support teachers who use the Cultural Heritage approach.

In the current study, I investigated a new approach to poetry teaching in the post-compulsory secondary years: that is. Years 11 and 12. The study was based on the records of interaction of students with students and with a teacher, so that classroom dialogue became the focus for understanding how and why certain things were achieved. Classroom talk was analysed in order to understand how and why changes in students' ways of dealing with poetry texts and their attitudes to poetry occurred.

Although poetry offers a challenge in teaching literature, this research does not focus merely on the teaching of poetry. Rather it has added the "critical" edge of teaching critical literacy through the generation of readings and meanings about poetry texts.

The study records my research. It began by observing current practice in a colleague's classroom. Having viewed these lessons, I changed some classroom strategies in my own poetry lessons, only to discover that they did not have any marked effect upon students' ability either to generate meaning or evaluate critically the discourses emanating from the texts. However, there was a slight shift in their attitudes towards poetry.

With a new class I was teaching, I changed the stance by shifting to the students, the power for generating readings. I did this by introducing collaborative group discussions before reporting to a class forum. The results were quite unexpected. Students responded positively to the changes when generating meanings through modified readings. Group members questioned the readings and reasoning for the readings of peers, and in so doing, they overcame their disillusionment with the aesthetics of the genre. The students displayed a growth in their awareness of, and ability to discuss their language in use, as well as transferred the process for generating meaning across a range of texts both in and outside the classroom.

I compared the students' response to the change with other classes in the succeeding year and having confirmed that there was a significant change occurring, I instigated a classroom based research design. The purpose was to establish what elements within the new pedagogy were responsible for the changes in both students' ways of dealing with poetry texts and their attitudes to poetry.

The following two years were devoted to comparing the responses of students with whom I adopted the new pedagogy and those of students whose teachers still favoured a Cultural Heritage approach to the teaching of poetry. This involved the audio-taping of group discussions and class lessons as well as taping interviews with students. Transcriptions of the tapes were analysed as were students' written responses to the unit of work centring on poetry.

The results of the research showed that the students in classes where the new pedagogy was used developed the confidence to approach poetry texts believing that they could generate readings and meanings from them that they deemed worthy for sharing with peers. Their attitude towards the genre changed with these skills and they came to see poetry as a part of everyday language use. Simultaneously, their ability to evaluate texts critically developed.

This study offers an analysis of what can change and how it can be changed in the teaching of poetry texts through critical literacy. The result is a proposed pedagogy that offers a unique insight into advanced literary teaching.

The thesis is written as a contribution to literary education, critical literacy and studies of pedagogy.
Keyword Poetry -- Study and teaching

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
 
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:17:28 EST